Buying a Home in Knoxville

Move over, Nashville and Memphis. Tennessee's third largest city is getting more love.
By: Annalisa Burgos
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Knoxville may not be on everyone's radar, but it is quickly becoming a hotspot for relocating families and young professionals in the science and technology fields. About three hours east of Nashville and four hours north of Atlanta, the city of roughly 200,000 residents attracts newcomers with its small town feel, impressive entertainment and nightlife calendar and the outdoor lifestyle of the Smoky Mountains. The greater Knoxville metropolitan area is home to more than 660,000 people, with many more relocating to the region each year.

So while many housing markets throughout the country are hurting, "statistically this market will do better," says Jerry Whitehead, president/co-owner of Gables & Gates Realtors in Knoxville. "It's the best suburban city in the Southeast. We have a low cost of living, low crime rate, no state taxes, moderate weather. You can even travel by boat."

In fact, Boating Life magazine named Knoxville one of the 10 best places to live and boat. And that's not the only "best-of" list Knoxville belongs to. In 2008, Knoxville was the fourth best mid-size city for relocating families, according to Worldwide ERC and Primacy Relocation. And the city is consistently among Forbes magazine's Top 10 "Best Places for Business and Careers."

"Many times, people came to Knoxville for work and fell in love with it and stayed," Whitehead says.

Despite nationwide job losses, the Knoxville area is still creating new jobs and attracting a highly-educated, well-paid workforce, specifically at the University of Tennessee and in the Oak Ridge area, where the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is located.

In fact, in the past few months, Gables & Gates, which handles everything from waterfront estates and custom-built homes to high-end developments and townhomes, has seen an increase in homebuyer calls and showings. They report that local developments such as Tennessee National (a gated luxury, waterfront neighborhood with an 18-hole golf course designed by golf pro Greg Norman) and Bridgemore (a unique 340-acre planned neighborhood with 320 custom homes and an abundance of parks and walking trails) are particularly popular because people are looking for modern amenities and a better quality of life.

"Buyers want to feel like they're trending up," Whitehead says.

But this doesn't mean that Knoxville's housing market isn't feeling the recession. It's just affected in different ways.

For one, home prices here haven't plummeted as much as they did in other areas of the country, mainly because there wasn't as much speculative buying going on to inflate prices. "Real estate has been pretty steady here," says Whitehead.

Today's homebuyers are more conservative and cautious, but they are still looking, he says. After all, a "down" market creates opportunities.

"We are in a constantly changing market, but a disruption like this doesn't change the fact that people need to buy homes," Whitehead explained. "They're just buying 20 percent less house than they would have a few years ago."

Buyers are more conscious about the amount of house they need and are moving away from big, ostentatious homes, he added.

"They are buying for comfort, usability and sale-ability," Whitehead said. "They are thinking about selling before they buy."

A smart practice, no matter what market you buy in.

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